Trout in the Classroom: Rewilding kids and rivers

Trout in the Classroom 2013 - with George Monbiot

This time last week, environmental writer-campaigner George Monbiot (personal mottos: Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable and Unreconstructed idealist, professional troublemaker) visited south London’s River Wandle to watch the Wandle Trust’s Trout in the Classroom trout fry release by local urban schoolkids in Morden Hall Park.

His feature about the project and its wider implications has now appeared in the Guardian, complete with reference to Trout in Dirty Places and (we’re delighted to see) coming to many of the same conclusions about the whole Trout in the Town philosophy:

In a way that is hard to explain, trout seem to be more alive than most other animals.

Perhaps it has something to do with their flickering changes of mood – extreme caution, then bold display, skulking in the shadows, then splashing on the surface of the river, sometimes leaping clear of the water – their great speed, their extraordinary beauty, their ability to disappear then flash back into sight, their remarkable range of colour and pattern and shape. And the presence of trout means that other things are alive: they cannot survive and breed without clean, clear water, clean gravel beds and an abundant supply of insect life… 

Thanks in part to (the efforts of trout fishermen), trout are now reappearing in the most unlikely settings. Theo Pike’s book Trout in Dirty Places is illustrated with photos taken amid shopping trolleys and behind housing estates, under flyovers and beside derelict factories, even in a tunnel under Manchester airport. Trout are rapidly returning to revitalised rivers flowing through towns and cities… 

It is true, of course, that our demand for ever-escalating quantities of stuff is now being met by industrial production elsewhere, with catastrophic results for ecosystems in those countries. But deindustrialisation in Britain and other rich nations seems inexorable and probably irreversible. If we live in a post-industrial nation, we might as well make use of that fact. If the Wandle can be restored after such punishment, almost anywhere can.

The full text of George’s article can be found on his Guardian blog, and his next book Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding will be published on 30 May by Allen Lane.

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